Michael O’ Loughlin of Carrick Wheelers became the first cyclist ever to capture Europe’s biggest stage race for two consecutive years when he claimed the 2011 Mayo International Youth Tour title in commanding style.
In so doing, he has won all four stage races for youth riders in Ireland this year – Ras na nOg in Drogheda, the Kanturk 3 Day, Arklow Bay 2 Day and the Mayo International Youth Tour.
In 2010, it was quite a surprise that O’ Loughlin marched the German champion in the time trial to take the yellow jersey and clung onto it for dear life in the final two stages. One year on and six inches taller, the Comeragh College student stamped his authority on all four stages, leaving competitors from Holland, South Africa, Spain, and Britain in his wake.
Stage 1 was a 30 km loop near Castlebar. O’ Loughlin went on the attack to take King of the Mountains points early on, which decimated the peloton. He gambled on not contesting a fairly dangerous sprint, thus forfeiting the 3 bonus seconds on offer. The stage was won by Scottish champion Stuart Balfour.
Stage 2 was a 4 km individual time trial. O’ Loughlin rode strongly throughout to win by 12 seconds from Balfour. This put him in the coveted yellow jersey by 9 seconds. A 36 km road stage followed in the afternoon. After claiming the mountains’ points, he attacked early on the approach to Kiltimagh and only Edinburgh’s Francis Webb passed him before the line. O’ Loughlin picked up a time bonus to extend his lead to 11 seconds.
The final stage was a criterium around the streets of Kiltimagh. O’ Loughlin dominated the stage from start to finish. He set a blistering pace on the first five laps, thus dropping 30 riders. The remaining 20 were happy to hang in there and nobody had the legs to challenge for the yellow jersey. Balfour won in the dash to the line as O’ Loughlin relished his unique achievement.
Michael O’ Loughlin has now won 20 races so far this season and continues to go from strength to strength. With Cycling Ireland due to name its Talent Team targeting the 2020 Olympics soon, surely the young man from Carrickbeg will be in contention.